Bob Holiday, Broadway's First Superman
Bob Holiday's Publicity Portfolio

Bob Holiday
Interviewed For
Wizard Magazine

Journalist Ethan Sacks Reminded Readers That Superman Was the First Superhero on Broadway!

Star Trek Cover of Wizard Magazine, Issue 220

In a January, 2010, Wizard Magazine, journalist
Ethan Sacks explored many reasons why
“Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark” had not yet
graced a stage. Of great importance to Bob
Holiday fans, Mr. Sacks made sure readers
remembered that Spider-Man was not the first
superhero on Broadway.

That was a job for Superman!

Featured in “Broadway’s Tangled Web”
(Wizard Magazine, issue 220) was a side-bar
article which featured Bob Holiday reflecting on
he fun he had as our favorite hero in
“It’s a Bird It’s a Plane It’s Superman”.

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark ran on Broadway from June 14, 2011 to January 4, 2014.

Wizard Magazine is no longer being published, and so is reprinting this moment in history. We hope you enjoy the side-bar, written by Ethan Sacks after interviewing Bob Holiday and webmaster Toni Collins. Bob Holiday was thrilled when this side-bar appeared in print. It was a tribute from a man too young to have seen Bob perform, who nevertheless honored Bob's ground-breaking performance. Ethan Sacks noted and immortalized the fact that Bob Holiday played the first superhero on Broadway!


Long before "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" swung onto the scene, another superhero made the great leap to the stage in a single bound. Look up on the marquee! "It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman!" marked the Man of Steel's Broadway debut and it opened to great hype—before closing after just 129 performances in 1966.

Donning the red and blue tights was Bob Holiday who, now 77 and freshly retired from his custom-home building business in Pennsylvania, remembers his starring role fondly. "I was a Superman [fan] when I was a little kid," he told Wizard by phone. "To come out and do this show was beautiful, marvelous. Mothers and fathers and their babies would come back stage after the show to see me and I would stay in with my Superman regalia [for] the kids."

The show was a hit with kids and critics alike. Gushed The New York Times critic Stanley Kauffman in his March 30, 1966 review: "They have made a show about a super-boob from outer space who lives by pasteurized milk and pasteurized standards. How nice it is to go to a purported entertainment and actually be entertained. What a novelty!"

The show, directed by the soon-to-be-legendary Harold Prince, turned the Alvin Theatre into a sliver of Metropolis, but it wasn't always smooth sailing for Holiday. The actor once took a plunge of about six feet when the wooden clip that held the wire to his belt slipped off during a flying sequence.

"He turned to the audience, broke the fourth wall and said, 'That would have hurt any mortal man.' And he got a standing ovation," says Toni Collins, who was so riveted by the show when she saw it as an 11-year-old girl that she tracked Holiday down almost four decades later and volunteered to run his Website....

But the musical had the misfortune of going up against some serious competition—from Batman. Unbeknownst to the show's producers, ABC had been working on a similarly campy television treatment of DC Comics' other major costumed champion for television.

How similar were the two shows' pop art sensibilities? "It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman!" featured a musical number called "Pow! Bam! Zonk!"

Some insiders believe—just like in Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns"—it was Batman that defeated Broadway's Superman, at least in the battle for kids' attention spans.

The musical's book writers, however, did okay for themselves. David Newman and Robert Benton's careers turned out impervious to box office kryptonite; the pair eventually co-wrote the screenplay to Richard Donner's "Superman" movie.

All spelling and punctuation is replicated from the original article.
Text © 2010, 2019 Toni Collins
Side-bar article quoted from Wizard Magazine, Issue 220, January 2010 Platinum Edition, © 2010 Ethan Sacks
Photos courtesy the Estate of Bob Holiday and personal collection of Toni Collins
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